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By Lincoln Lewis- After information was made public a team from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) would be visiting Guyana, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) dispatched a letter seeking a meeting. At the time of writing there has been no response.
At the same time, it is noted, acting President Mark Phillips met the team and “assure” the Bharrat Jagdeo/Ali Ally regime does not practice discrimination and respects the “rights of all majorities and minorities in the Guyanese society’ as stipulated in the Constitution of Guyana. This could not be farther from the truth. For the record, discrimination is pervasive under this regime.
A few instances the regime’s acts and actions are herein cited: –
1. Open contempt and disregard of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual’ as outlined in Title I of the Constitution of Guyana;
2. The violation of workers’ right to join trade union of choice, engage in collective bargaining and strike as enshrined in Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana; and the duty of the employer to treat with the trade union in good faith as stated in Section 23(1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act.
Trade unions affected are: The Guyana Teachers Union, Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union. The GPSU has approached the court seeking its directive to have the government engage the union on collective bargaining.
3. Flagrant disregard for the ‘Objective of the political system’ as enshrined in Article 13 in the Constitution of Guyana which outlines: “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
4. The continued violation of the ‘Right to free education,’ as outlined in Article 27 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana where it is expressly stated: “(1) Every citizen has the right to free education from nursery to university as well as at non-formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.”
5. The marginalisation of independent trade unions and violation of 38 and 149C in the Constitution of Guyana, respectively:-
Article 38A that deals with the ‘National cooperation for development of economy,’ which expressly states: “It is the duty of the State, co-operatives, trade unions, other socio-economic organisations and the people through sustained and disciplined endeavours to achieve the highest possible levels of production and to develop the economy in order to ensure the realisation of the rights set out in this Chapter.”
Article 149C that deals with the ‘Right to participate in decision making processes of the State’ and expressly states: “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of participating through co-operatives, trade unions, civic or socio-economic organisations of a national character, in the management and decision-making processes of the State.”
6. The non-establishment of the Human Rights Commission as guaranteed in the Constitution at Articles 212N, 212Q and 212P;
7. Land grabbing and coveting of ancestral land; and discriminatory allocation of house lots;
8. Arbitrary withdrawal of subventions (state grants) to the Guyana Trades Union Congress; Critchlow Labour College; the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G); among others;
9. Threat to the Right to Freedom of Expression as outlined in Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana. This is manifest twofold: – i) Denial of access to state media (which has the widest coverage) to the political opposition and organisation independent of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime. The state-media used by regime to attack persons and leaders in society who are denied the right to response via same media; ii) denial of state advertisement to some private media not considered supporters of the PPP as a political entity and Government;
10. Discriminatory allocation in government contracts;
11. Discriminatory budgetary allocation towards communities, regional and local democratic organs not controlled by the regime;
12. The non-involvement of the Opposition in decision-making, particularly on major issues;
13. The continued non-appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, in spite of the High Court ruling on 26th April 2023 to have the matter resolved. Two qualified African Guyanese women are being denied tenure and pension they would have ordinarily accrued were their appointments substantive;
14. Open disregard for leaders elected by the African and Amerindian communities if these leaders are independent of the PPP or from the political Opposition.
Not uncharacteristic of the PPP, the person assigned the task to deliver the deceptive message the regime does not practice discrimination is an African, acting as President when the principal architects of the discriminatory policies Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo have found reason not to meet the IACHR by attending a conference in Dubai.
Phillips is from Linden/Region 10, a region that has faced the brunt of the PPP discriminatory policies and wrath, dating back to 1993. One must also see Phillips as a victim of discrimination for he has been placed in a position to deceive and/or lack the testicular fortitude to say he cannot participate in this act of deception.